- Agronomic: other
- Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation, cropping systems, no-till, varieties and cultivars
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
Problem and Justification:
Diverse, profitable crop rotations are essential to regenerative agriculture and food systems in the Northeast. We define “regenerative agriculture” broadly, incorporating both ecological regeneration as well as social and economic regeneration of farmer communities. With the expansion of regional small grains production, farmers need other high-value crops to improve overall farm profitability. Diverse organic crop rotations improve soil health and increase yields over time. As a food-grade legume, dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, also known as common bean) has potential to fill this niche and increase regional food system self-sufficiency. However, despite high demand for organic, regionally grown dry beans, regional production has not risen to meet this demand. Farmers indicate high levels of interest in adopting beans as a new crop, but often do not know where to turn for region-specific information on production and market opportunities.
Solution and Approach:
This project seeks to help build a dry bean farmer community of practice in the Northeast, facilitating knowledge exchange and sharing research-based best practices on dry bean production as part of a regenerative cropping system. Examples of regenerative practices include implementation of diverse crop rotations (particularly legume species), biological fertility and disease management, and reduced soil disturbance. Soil health is particularly crucial for production of high-quality dry beans due to issues with soilborne disease. The community of practice will help connect farmers to agronomic information, equipment resources and market opportunities that they need to successfully grow dry beans for regional markets. The burgeoning regional small-grains supply chain represents an untapped opportunity to integrate other high-value crops, and serves as an existing network of farmers, processors, and marketers with whom to engage.
Importantly, in recent years modern breeding efforts have expanded the market classes that can be direct harvested using traditional combines, lowering barriers to entry by reducing the need for specialized equipment. These market classes include navy, small red, pinto, great northern, and pink in addition to black beans. Direct harvest of dry beans facilitates regenerative production systems by reducing soil disturbance and allowing integration of cover crops and organic no-till methods. The project will leverage information from our own research as well as other bean producing regions to inform our short course and other educational resources.
This project will work closely with farmer collaborators to answer research questions and effectively share information through farmer-to-farmer learning. Our research activities will include: 1) variety trials of alternative market classes, 2) an experiment on effect of seeding rate on black bean performance in rolled-crimped rye systems, and 3) an experiment evaluating two new market classes beyond black bean in tilled vs. organic no-till systems.
Performance targets from proposal:
25 dry bean farmers will make at least one behavior change (such as tillage reduction, cover cropping strategy or variety selection) on 300 acres. This will increase marketable yields or price received, resulting in increased gross return of $150,000 across 25 farms. Additionally, 25 farms not previously growing dry beans will begin growing them for sale on a total of 150 acres, resulting in 50 tons of Northeast-grown dry beans sold through regional market channels, increased crop rotation diversity and increased farm profitability.